ASBESTOS EXPOSURE AND LITIGATION

Press Release: Legal Lines with Locke Meredith

Jeff Nicholson

Show # 112

Attorney, Locke Meredith, interviews one of his law partners, Jeff Nicholson, about asbestos-related cancers like mesothelioma that you see on TV commercials.  They will discuss cancers you can get, symptoms, treatments, and what you need to do as far as hiring an attorney.

The commercials people often see on TV about asbestos exposure and mesothelioma are produced by attorneys who will represent people for asbestos exposure.  Louisiana has particularly high numbers of these cases because we have such a huge petrochemical industry, an industry that used a ton of asbestos in years past, from the turn of the twentieth century until the seventies.  Asbestos was used by the tons of thousands in insulation, to heat processes, ect.  Lots of this exposure happened at places like Exxon.  Exxon is the second largest chemical plant in the world, and it is right here in Baton Rouge.

Asbestos exposure doesn’t hurt you immediately, sometimes it can take thirty to fifty years to develop into cancer, the most heinous of which is mesothelioma.  Typical plant exposures occured with someone who worked with piping insulation or some other type of asbestos insulation, including ceiling tiles.  Today, cases of plant workers are falling, but home exposure is on the rise.  People who worked with ceiling tiles, floor tiles, joint compound and things like that are popping up.  Experts expect the peak of the cases to be in 2012 and then it should decline.

Asbestos exposure only occurs through inhalation, they explain.  Touching it will not get you sick, only when the asbestos particles get into the air (through it breaking or crushing) can they get down into your lungs and get you sick.  Symptoms include but are not limited to: breathing problems, chest pains, coughing, and stomach pain.  One form of disease is known as asbestosis, which is a scarring for the lung tissue, requiring you to use an oxygen tank.  Scientists believe it only takes one to several days of exposure to give you cancer down the road.  Asbestos is a very resilient mineral, and when it gets into the lining of your lungs or stomach, these particles do not biodegrade.

There are four primary diseases that develop from exposure to asbestos.  Asbestosis is one, and is a scarring of the lung tissue.  Asbestosis carries with it a range of illnesses from shortness of breath to needing oxygen 24/7.  The big only sufficient treatment for it is a lung transplant, for which few qualify.

Disease number two is lung cancer.  This is especially prevalent in plant workers who were exposed in the fifties, sixties, and seventies who were also smokers.   Shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pain characterize this.   Lung cancer is the growth of cells in your lungs, which reduce their ability to function.  Treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation, removal of the lung, and removal of the tumor.  Doctors are finding more success with lung cancer as of recent years.  Radiation, one form of treatment, burns the cancer away, while chemotherapy essentially poisons the cancer.  Chemotherapy is quite risky, though, because it also kills good white blood cells that help your immune system.  Lung cancer can be cured, or can be survived for months on to years depending on when it is found, and how severe it is.

The next and third disease is mesothelioma.  This disease is only known to be caused by asbestos, so there is no contest as to where it came from.  Mesothelioma also is deadly, with no known cure.  It is caused by asbestos getting into the lining of the lung, the pleura.  Sharp stomach pain, problems with bowels, and chest pain, and shortness of breath characterize mesothelioma.  Currently radiation and chemotherapy are used to try and reduce symptoms.

Next the conversation turns to how these types of cases are litigated.  Exposure alone does not warrant a suit, you must be diagnosed with an illness.  From the moment you seek the advice of an attorney and you have the diagnosis, you have one year to file a suit, or your claim is void.  Step one for the attorney is to determine where the exposure occurred; this establishes a defendant.  Most of these cases are sued upon in state court.  Many of the defendants are bankrupted corporations, which have established trusts that pay out to each claim.  No class action suit occurred with asbestos exposure.

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